After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources outside the Modern West

After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources outside the Modern West

After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources outside the Modern West

After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources outside the Modern West

Synopsis

To think about the Spirit it will not do to think 'spiritually': to think about the Spirit you have to think materially," claims Eugene F. Rogers. The Holy Spirit, who in classical Christian discourse "pours out on all flesh," has tended in modern theology and worship to float free of bodies. The result of such disembodiment, contends Rogers, is that our talk about the Spirit has become flat and uninspiring. In After the Spirit Rogers diagnoses a related gap in the revival of trinitarian theology, a mentality that "there's nothing the Spirit can do that the Son can't do better."The Eastern Christian tradition, by contrast, has usually linked the Holy Spirit with holy places, holy people, and holy things. Weaving together a rich tapestry of sources from this tradition, Rogers locates the Spirit in the Gospel stories of the annunciation, Jesus' baptism, the transfiguration, and the resurrection. These stories offer illuminating glimpses into both the Spirit's connection with the tangible world and the Spirit's distinctive place in relation to the other persons of the Trinity.Eight gorgeous color plates complement Rogers's witty and passionate prose.

Excerpt

As I was putting together the collection Theology and Sexuality, I was also planning this book, After the Spirit. It treats the continual lip service and equally continual lack of substance accorded the Holy Spirit in modern Christian thought. Committed to talk of the Spirit by multiple traditions, modern Christian thought has less and less to say about it. Spirit-talk in the last hundred years has been ever more evoked, and ever more substance-free. The Spirit, who in classical Christian discourse “pours out on all flesh,” had, in modern Christian discourse, floated free of bodies altogether.

What if the Spirit had grown boring because it no longer had anything to do with the body? And what if appeals to bodily experience in cases of sexual controversy led to mutual dismissal because they had become too individualist, because appealers failed to argue in terms of a common Spirit?

Thanks to a leave at the National Humanities Center in 1999–2000, I had enjoyed the leisure to dabble in Greek and Syriac texts of earlier centuries of the Christian era, where I noticed that — unlike in the twentieth century — talk of the Holy Spirit seemed, to a non-specialist at least, almost always strictly tied to talk of holy places, holy people, and holy things. It did not float free of bodily existence as it does in modern North Atlantic Christian discourse and worship. Indeed, it was embodied. One locus was baptism, in which the Spirit descended upon a person. Another was the Eucharist, in which it dwelt as a fire in consecrated bread and the wine. A third was unction,

This section appeared in slightly different form, and with a different context and purpose, in my introduction to Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., Theology and Sexuality: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), pp. xx–xxi. That shows the relation of spirit and matter.

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